I recently went into my local hat store to get my felt hat steamed and remoulded after it had been travelling in my suitcase home from Bali. I walked into the shop to chat to the guy about salvaging my beloved hat, only to be met with a disgruntled attitude and advice that I should do it at home myself.
Needless to say, I was furious. After having made the trip to the shopping centre specifically for this reason, and having been a previous paying customer of this shop, I walked in that day with the intention of spending money in exchange for the steaming service I was after. Unfortunately the guy working there just wasn’t interested in helping me out and literally told me to go home.
Upon reflecting on the whole hat steaming situation, it dawned on me why these type of brick and mortar businesses are beginning to fail. I spend a lot of time running, learning and engaging with online businesses. The impeccable quality of customer service I receive from e-commerce websites is outstanding and it’s becoming harder and harder for traditional business people to match.
Here are three examples of why I believe online business will always outshine a shop front owner:
1. Free Stuff. When was the last time you walked into a shop and got something for free without having to spend a cent? Most websites we visit these days have at least one free offer as soon as we enter the site. Be it a resource, recipe, eBook, podcast, Q&A or discount code. A good quality online business will always offer us somewhere between 50 - 80% of free content before they even invite us to purchase anything. This kind of customer care is unheard of in a ‘traditional’ business.
2. Answers! Have you ever walked into a shop and noticed that the person behind the counter doesn’t even look up to acknowledge your presence, let alone give you the time of day to answer any questions you might have about the product/service? It drives me mad when I’m trying to find out about something and no one in the store can help me, nor do they have the initiative to find the answers for me.
Compare that type of experience to a website that is selling a product/service and has a sales page filled with a transparent outline of exactly what you're purchasing, an FAQ for unusual questions we might have, testimonials from other buyers, videos to clearly explain how it works, easy to understand return policies, a live chat pop-up box, toll free numbers to call, feedback forms and automated responses to let us know the progress of any queries we might have. Not only do we feel well educated about our purchase, but we can easily return it if it’s not right.
3. Consistency. I’m sure we’ve all been there before; working in a shitty retail/hospitality job that we hate…turning up to do our shift, filthy that we have to be there and determined to take it out on every customer that walks through the door in the hope that they don’t linger.
The reality is, humans are bitchy! If we’re having a bad day, chances are everyone around us is going to know about it. A website would never treat people like that! No matter how many times we go in and out of the website, add things to the cart and abandon them at the checkout, change our mind or get a second opinion, websites never treat us any different. We can take as long as we like to find our credit card at the register and be on our phone whilst checking out and no one will never roll their eyes at us. The website will always greet us in the same way, let us know of any discounts without being intrusive of our personal space and best of all, it doesn't bother making awkward short talk.